"The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support (of the Cuban revolutionary government) is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship…Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba…A line of action which…makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government." Secret memorandum of Lester D Mallory, deputy assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, April 6, 1960
Washington, D.C.– A brass band played the Cuban national anthem on Monday morning as I watched the Cuban flag being raised in front of the Cuban embassy for the first time since 1961 when the United States government cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba. Getting them restored was a great victory for the Cuban people and their government, although relations between the two countries are far from normal.
The United States still spends $30 million a year to subvert the Cuban government, illegally keeps a chunk of their country at the prison camp known as Guantánamo, and enforces a crippling commercial, economic, and financial blockade which has had the intended effect of stunting Cuban economic development by an estimated 1.1 trillion dollars in order to demonstrate to the world that there is no alternative to capitalism. But in the face of adversity, the Cubans have shown that there is.
"Regime change" is still part of American law. I was one of 500 people invited by the Cubans to celebrate the victory and re-dedicate ourselves to completing it. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez addressed the overflowing crowd packed in to the 1916 elegant limestone mansion on Embassy Row. He said that "In 1959, United States refused to accept the existence of a fully independent small and neighboring Island and much less, a few years later, a socialist revolution that was forced to defend itself and has invited, ever since then, our people's will….only the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade which has caused so much arm and suffering to our people; the return of the occupied territory in Guantánamo and the respect for Cuba's sovereignty will lend some meaning to the historic event that we are witnessing today."
He expressed the resolve of the Cuban people and concluded by saying that "to insist in the attainment of obsolete and unjust goals, only hoping for a mere change in the methods to achieve them will not legitimatize them or favor the national interest of United States or its citizens. However, should that be the case, we would be ready to face the challenge. "
Why was Cuba finally recognized? After the Cuban revolution of 1959, United States successfully isolated the Cuban people from the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. Any government that did not go along with America's policy paid a heavy price. The democratically elected governments of Uruguay , Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and most famously Chile, the other 9/11, were replaced by US friendly dictatorships. Cuba was thrown out of the Organization of American States. Che Guevara call the OAS the "Ministry of Colonies."
But last year the head of the Panamanian government told the United States that it and the other Latin American countries wanted Cuba back in at the next meeting and if United States didn't like it they didn't have to come. That may have been the turning point. United States threw everything it had a Cuba. Even before the revolution, they supported the Batista dictatorship, giving it arms, training it's secret torturing police, and supply and its army. Twenty thousand Cubans lost their lives in the revolution That was just a start.
In 1959 many Cubans worked seasonably, lived in a grass thatched hut and , were illiterate, unhealthy, and died young. This all changed with the revolution. The large U.S.-owned landed estates were broken up and the land was redistributed to the peasants who worked it; many of them had fought in the revolution. The U.S. owners were told they would be paid for the land according to how much they listed its value for tax purposes. The Americans turned down the offer and closed the country's only oil refinery, threatening to stop the Cuban economy, which would run out of gasoline. So the Cubans nationalized the oil refinery, then the phone company, then the bus company, and the nickel mines, and on and on. This became the Cuba's socialist revolution.
To reverse it, the United States relied on terrorist groups helped by the CIA and centered and trained in Florida. They unleashed several thousands of CIA trained counterrevolutionaries in the infamous and failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. When the Cubans began their literacy campaign the terrorists killed the teachers. They burned down the sugarcane fields. To cripple the tourist trade they placed bombs in hotels. In 1976 they bombed a Cuban commercial airplane, killing 73 people including the entire young Cuban fencing team. They introduced dengue fever into the island which killed a lot of children. More biological warfare was used against the Cuban pig population. A half a million pigs had to be destroyed.
A Congressional committee asked Felix Rodriguez, a Cuban counterrevolutionary and infamous CIA agent, if he ever tried to assassinate Fidel Castro with an exploding cigar. Rodriguez replied, "no sir, but I did try to kill the son of a bitch with a high-powered rifle. ". In 1967 Rodriguez and another Cuban counterrevolutionary Gustavo Vilolldo worked with the U.S.-installed dictatorship in Bolivia and succeeded in assassinating Che Guevara as Michael Ratner and I demonstrated in our book Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.
Nonetheless, the Cubans have achieved some remarkable gains. Their population has a literacy rate of 100%. Education is free. So is health care. People are healthy and live longer than they do in United States. Cuban art, music, and dance is fantastic. The "lack of freedom"and "repression" by the Cuban government is wildly exaggerated by U.S. propaganda. The fact is that there is more participation by the Cuban population in the running of their country than there is by the American population in the running of ours.
What's next? Obama could ease off on the economic sanctions if he wanted to. The problem United States has with Guantánamo could be solved simply: give it back. The US could stop trying to subvert the Cuban government and stop paying and directing a lot of the so-called "dissidents". Americans could be allowed to travel freely to Cuba and see for themselves the real situation there.
It has been assumed by American policymakers since Thomas Jefferson that Cuba was part of the American orbit, "the ripe fruit", that should fall into America's lap. The Cubans have resisted this. They need all the solidarity they can get. Our movement in the United States should say with one voice, in the words of Sandra Levinson, the Director of New York City's Center For Cuban Studies, who was present in Washington,"let Cuba be Cuba. "